UAH Shooting

UAH Shooting

At the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in Huntsville, Alabama, three people were killed and three others wounded in a shooting on February 12, 2010. During the course of a routine meeting of the biology department attended by approximately 12 people, professor Amy Bishop stood up and began shooting those closest to her with a 9-millimeter handgun.

A biology professor at the university, Bishop was the sole suspect and was charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder. On September 11, 2012, Bishop pled guilty to the above charges after family members of victims petitioned the judge against use of the death penalty. The jury heard a condensed version of the evidence on September 24, 2012, as required by Alabama law. On September 24, 2012, Amy Bishop was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In March 2009, Bishop had been denied tenure at the university, making spring 2010 her last semester there, per university policy. Due to the attention Bishop attracted as a result of the shooting, previous violent incidents in which she had been involved or implicated were reevaluated. She had drawn the attention of law-enforcement officials in 1986 when she shot and killed her brother in Braintree, Massachusetts, in an incident officially ruled an accident. Along with her husband, she was questioned in a 1993 pipe-bomb incident directed toward her lab supervisor.

The day of the shooting, Bishop taught her anatomy and neurosciences class. According to a student in Bishop’s class, she “seemed perfectly normal” during the lecture.

She attended a biology department faculty meeting in Room 369 on the third floor of the Shelby Center for Science and Technology, which houses the UAH Biology and Mathematics departments. According to witnesses, 12 or 13 people attended the meeting, which was described as “an ordinary faculty meeting.” Bishop’s behavior was also described as “normal” just prior to the shooting.

She sat quietly at the meeting for 30 or 40 minutes, before pulling out a 9 mm handgun “just before” 4:00 p.m. CST, according to a faculty member. Joseph Ng, an associate professor who witnessed the attack, said: “[She] got up suddenly, took out a gun and started shooting at each one of us. She started with the one closest to her, and went down the row shooting her targets in the head.” According to another survivor, Debra Moriarity, dean of the university’s graduate program and a professor of biochemistry, “This wasn’t random shooting around the room; this was execution style.” Those who were shot were on one side of the oval table used during the meeting, and the five on the other side, including Ng, dropped to the floor.

After Bishop had fired several rounds, Moriarity said that Bishop pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but heard only a “click,” as her gun “either jammed or ran out of ammunition.” She described Bishop as initially appearing “angry,” and then following the apparent weapon malfunction, “perplexed.” Ng said Moriarity attempted to stop Bishop by approaching her and asking her to stop, and helped the other survivors push Bishop from the room and block the door. Ng said “Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives. She was the one that initiated the rush.”

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